Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wrong Person

In the past few days I have followed a crooked trail from Fred Clark’s summary of a book by Mark Driscoll to a blogpost called So You Think You’ve Married the Wrong Person

The “so you think” is a dead giveaway that the blogger's conclusion, even not having met you and knowing nothing about you and your spouse, is going to be “well, you thought wrong, bozo”. (“Bozo” is not stated, merely implied.)

The post is a short one, and starts out with:

From time to time I hear a husband or wife wonder if perhaps they made a mistake in marrying the person that they did.
Things have usually gotten pretty bad by the time this question arises. Maybe the differences between the husband and wife are much greater than either one anticipated. The husband is neat, the wife is messy. The wife is talkative, the husband is quiet. The husband is always on time, the wife lives more in the moment. The wife is social, the husband is a homebody. These differences, which were initially just an irritant, have grown into something massive. What was once a tiny gap has become a great divide.
Pretty bad? Here’s my list, culled from real life and internet blogs and message boards, of things getting “pretty bad” that cause people to reflect that they might have married the wrong person:
1) A spouse having multiple affairs and giving the other spouse an STD;
2) A spouse who cannot hold a job, not because of the poor economy but due to inability to get along with supervisors;
3) A spouse who is an alcoholic, gambler, or unrestrained spender;
4) A spouse who treats the other spouse purely as a source of supply, of sex, personal services such as housekeeping, or of income;
5) A spouse who is abusive towards the children;
6) A spouse who is abusive to the other spouse.
To be fair to the blogger, however, it may just be the case that when he meets spouses involved in those situations, they aren’t just wondering if they married the wrong person. They’re pretty damn sure of it.
The post goes on to quote some words of Paul Tripp and then to conclude:
Your marriage, and the struggles in your marriage are not an accident. Even if you married a non-Christian, you’re [sic] marriage is not an accident! God is sovereign over all your struggles and sins, and he is using the differences between you and your spouse to bring himself glory and to make you more like Jesus.
I am trying to put myself in the mindset of those who are regular readers of The Blazing Center and whose beliefs would make this comforting advice. I am failing dismally. If you are miserable in your marriage, at war with your spouse and worried about the effect your quarrels are having on your children, I don't think a glory hound god who did this to you on purpose is going to make you feel better. This post makes me feel like a cog in the machine of God’s Greater Glory, Inc rather than as if I matter. Furthermore, rather than my spouse being considered an actual person in his own right, he’s apparently God’s object lesson for me. I don’t know about God, but I see my spouse as so much more than that.
The blogger has added a “side note”, which I don’t remember being there the first time I read his post, but it may have been. It goes 
There are obviously a thousand different variations on marriage. If you are in an abusive marriage, I am not saying that you need to stay in the path of harm. That conversation should be had with your pastor or another wise Christian.
No, that conversation you need to have with the police, or an attorney, or an expert on spousal abuse. 
I understand that the author of the post is speaking from a faith tradition in which marriage is forever. That is why he cannot bring himself to utter the word divorce even in cases of abuse, preferring to pass the buck to some other pastor or “wise Christian”. That’s why he trivializes the concerns of people whose marriages are in trouble. Those of us who have spouses who merely talk more than we would like don’t necessarily think we’ve married the wrong person. We think we need to buy more earplugs, and maybe some duct tape, but we don’t think we’ve married the wrong person. 
My first marriage was to the wrong person. Although I grew up in a liberal Methodist church that tolerated divorce and although I was not a practicing Methodist at the time, I took seriously the vow I made “until death do you part.” I took the vow seriously through years of verbal abuse. When it began to seem that the death in question was likely to be untimely, likely be violent, and likely to be mine, however, I decided “I didn’t sign on for this” and threw my now ex out of the house. I like the way Wayne and Tamara Mitchell put it, “ When you married for better or for worse, the worse refers to life, not what the wrong person decides to put you through.” 
The funny thing is, though, for most of my marriage, I thought we were right for each other. I thought I was a good person to deal with my ex’s volatile temper, name calling, and threats, because I was brave enough to stand up to him and not be manipulated by him. If he hadn’t progressed to physical violence, I would have stayed in a bad marriage and agreed with the writer that no one is perfect.
I like to say that when my ex beat me up, he did it in the kindest way possible. He came home from work, picked a fight over nothing, and worked himself into a rage with no participation on my part. There was no room for me to say, “Well, maybe if I had . . .” As a result, when I met my husband, the right person, I was free to marry him. And you know what? He talks too much. When we are going somewhere, when he says he is ready to leave what he really means is he will spend the next ten minutes heating his to-go cup of coffee, looking for his car keys, wallet, and sunglasses, and going back into the house to check if he left something on. He refuses to get rid of items I see as junk and clutter.
And he has his list of my little irritants as well. Despite all these, we are amazingly in synch. If he says he is thinking of something, it’s very often the same thing I was thinking of as well. If I have a yen for nachos, he is likely to come in from some errand he is running and say, “I thought we’d go get Mexican tonight.” We have the same values, the same political views, and many of the same interests.
It’s more than that I am just physically safer with my husband. If I had stuck with my ex, I would never have known the well-being that comes from a relationship with someone who actually is the right person. I probably would have agreed that people divorce too easily over the wrong things.
As it is, I consider myself fortunate that when I was dealing with a bad marriage, I didn’t go to anyone like the author of So You Think You’ve Married the Wrong Person for advice. He would definitely have been the wrong person.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! There's a certain mindset that seems to believe that once you've made the decision to marry someone, that decision cannot ever turn out to be wrong. I mean, that's the logical end of that train of thought, right? Do they really think you can't make a mistake in who you marry? Does putting a ring on your finger mean you automatically picked the right person?

    I've never been married, but I've been in romantic relationships that just Weren't Right for me. In the case I'm thinking of just now, it wasn't necessarily abusive (though I have friends who think it was borderline, so IDK) but we fought all the time, and looking back I think that we just...didn't really fit, even from the start. It was a relief to break up, as if I'd been squishing myself into a mould that was the wrong shape.

    On the other hand, I'm in a relationship now that looks a lot more like the one you have with your husband: I'm the one who talks too much, she's the one who leaves her socks out, I keep odd hours, we have different ideas of what's fashionable in clothing...but we share books and philosophies in common, and where we disagree we can talk about it, and we love each other and care about one another. And when I ended up in the ER when she was out of town, she dreamed that I'd gone to the hospital. There's something that clicks about us, and if I'd never broken up with the first girl we wouldn't have what we have now.